Job Envy / by Ryan Koch

The tour concludes at the raspberry patch.

The tour concludes at the raspberry patch.

Last month I had the chance to meet a group of developmentally disabled teens from Tates Creek High School at the London Ferrell Community Garden. This was our second time to meet there. We did a short tour and we did some garden work that day, preparing the beds for the winter. The weather cooperated that morning--sunny and warm. One student slowly realized that the "garden" was not the same outing as the "pumpkin patch." Disappointment turned quickly into anger, and he was not able to communicate what was bothering him. This is when I watched Kelli Burton spring into action. She led the frustrated child away from the rest of the group for a short conversation. She figured out the issue, and soon the student was back in the garden, making the best of the outing.

What I hadn't noticed as we got started was how Kelli had orchestrated the work groups. She knew who got along, and who didn't, and why. She knew who could use a tool, and who could not. She had quietly and artfully set her group up for a successful morning.

I have thought about that morning quite a bit since then. It slowly dawned on me that I was seeing an experienced educator performing a very challenging task, caring for a group of young people with a variety of needs and abilities. Kelli's art was care, and like a good artist, she made it look easy, and normal, as if this is just how Thursday mornings tend to go. I saw all of this and I couldn't help but wonder, Could I do that?

Job envy sneaks up on me when I am slightly out of sorts. Cold grey days are a trigger for this. I see some bit of work done with great care and I want to be a part of it somehow. I want that care, that skill, that challenge, in my life. I long to see what that sort of work would refine in me. I think job envy is a slightly bent sort of admiration or appreciation. It is bent towards me, and not in a very helpful manner.

The question need not be, Could I do that? A better question is, How does she do that? This question is more likely to set me onto a path of wonder and gratitude. This question helps me appreciate somebody else's gift(s). This question cultivates gratitude in me that I happened to be there to see this even unfold. This question is much more likely to start a productive conversation.

And so it has. I am working with Kelli to set up a number of garden plots at her school this spring, spaces her students can build and care for. We will keep you posted on this project as it moves forward!